The Top 15 Hiking Destinations in India

Landscape of Leh, Ladakh, North of India
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India is a huge country with wildly diverse landscapes that offer hikes of every level of difficulty. The Himalayan mountain range that runs through many of India's northern states and union territories offers the greatest concentration of mountain hikes. However, that isn't the only mountain range in India and states further south offer an array of incredible landscapes to hike through. From the snow-capped High Himalaya in the north to the tea fields and jungles of the south, here are some of the best regions for hiking in India.

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terraced Buddhist monastery on a hill surrounded by rocky mountains and grassy land beneath

Elen Turner

Ladakh is on the south-western edge of the Tibetan Plateau, in India's far north, and is culturally and geographically distinct from much of the rest of India. The people mainly follow Tibetan Buddhism, speak a language related to Tibetan, and the landscape is a barren high-altitude desert. Ladakh is remote and at a very high altitude (the capital, Leh, sits at 11,562 feet), but the abundance of mountains and side valleys make it a very exciting place to hike.

The Markha Valley, Hemis National Park, Zanskar Valley, and Nubra Valley are all within Ladakh, and allow hikers to see the rocky mountains, glacial rivers, and ancient culture, all while staying in village homestays or monasteries.

The best time to visit Ladakh is between June and September when the climate is generally warm. The rest of the year, the region is covered in heavy snow and is impossible to reach overland. Although extreme hikers come to do the Zanskar Chadar Trek in mid-winter, which follows the frozen Zanskar River and requires sleeping in caves, a majority of hikers will be most comfortable visiting in summer.

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Spiti Valley (Himachal Pradesh)

Tibetan prayer flags strung across a high ridge with dry mountains and river valley in background

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Nestled between Manali and Ladakh, the Spiti Valley is similar to Ladakh in landscape and culture but is even more remote and sees fewer travelers because it's such a challenge to reach. Several high-altitude treks can be enjoyed here, hiking between whitewashed clifftop monasteries and patchworks of irrigated fields around villages. Most of the treks here are considered challenging because of their altitudes and the number of high passes along the way, including the Kunzum Pass (15,000 feet), the Hamta Pass (14,000 feet), and the Pin Bhaba Pass (16,000 feet).

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Manali (Himachal Pradesh)

green tent in grassy meadow with horses and snow-capped mountains in the background

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The small town of Manali is an adventure travel hub in the summer lover for its cooler mountain climate, although it is snowbound in the winter. One of the things that makes Manali so appealing to hikers is that it's an easy jumping-off point for long and short hikes in this northern part of Himachal Pradesh. Manali itself sits within the Kullu Valley, and is a couple of hours' drive below the Rohtang Pass, a mountain pass that leads to the Spiti Valley and Ladakh. Manali also offers convenient access to the more remote Parvati Valley and Malana Valley and is where you can find tour companies who will arrange guided treks into these isolated valleys.

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Kashmir Valley (Jammu & Kashmir)

fenced field of yellow crops with mountains in background and blue sky with clouds

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Within the Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir, the Kashmir Valley is a beautiful area for hiking. In fact, some of the most beautiful parts of Kashmir can only be visited on foot. The Great Lakes Trek is sometimes called one of the best treks in India: it takes seven days and is only moderately challenging. It passes turquoise alpine lakes, meadows filled with wildflowers, and snow-capped mountains. The trek starts at Sonamarg and ends in Naranag, and is best done between July and September.

Although travelers are rarely the target, political unrest in Kashmir has been ongoing for many years and often erupts in the summer months. Before heading to Kashmir, particularly Srinagar, be sure to check for any travel advisories.

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Valley of the Flowers National Park (Uttarakhand)

PInk wildflowers with mountains in the background
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The name says it all: the Valley of Flowers National Park, in the Chamoli District of Uttarakhand, erupts in a frenzy of wildflowers in the summer. The sheer amount of biodiversity in the park is the reason that it's a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It's only open to visitors between July and September, which is the best time to see the wildflowers but is also the monsoon season, so hikers should expect rain and mud rather than perfectly clear mountain views. The two-to-three-day trek starts in the village of Ghangaria and is classed as moderate, with some easy and some strenuous parts.

If wildflowers are your thing, you can also see them in bloom at the same time of year on some other trekking routes across Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, and Kashmir.

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Nanda Devi National Park (Uttarakhand)

pointed snow-capped peak of Mt. Nanda Devi with blue sky in background

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The mighty Himalayan mountain range contains several of the highest mountains in the world, but most of them are in Nepal or on the border of Nepal and India. The highest peak that is completely in India is Nanda Devi (at 25,643 feet), in the Garhwal region of Uttarakhand. The Nanda Devi National Park is near the Valley of Flowers, right on the border with southwestern Tibet.

Popular treks in this park include the Nanda Devi Base Camp Trek and the Nanda Devi Sanctuary Trek. Both provide views of the 23rd highest mountain in the world and are classified as moderate-to-difficult treks, so they are best suited to experienced hikers.

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Gangotri (Uttarakhand)

rocky mountains with people walking

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Treks in the Gangotri area of the Garhwal Himalaya of Uttarakhand bring hikers to the Gangotri Glacier, the source of the sacred River Ganga. The glacier is huge, at 17 miles long and 2.5 miles wide, and treks in its vicinity range from two to five days. All of the trails are at high altitudes of between 13,000 and 21,000 feet, so care should be taken to acclimatize properly and not rush the trek.

If a challenging high-altitude hike isn't what you're looking for, there are other Hindu pilgrimage routes in the area and temples to visit.

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woman standing on ledge overlooking a valley with steep mountains, scattered trees and snow

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Sikkim is a small state in northeastern India, bordering eastern Nepal, that was an independent Himalayan kingdom (like Bhutan) until 1975 when it became a state of India. Because of that history, Sikkim is culturally closer to Tibet, Bhutan, and eastern Nepal than some other parts of India. It's a small state but very mountainous, so it can take a long time to cover what looks like a short distance on the map, making for ideal hiking territory!

Mount Kanchenjunga, the third-highest mountain in the world, lies on the border of Nepal and Sikkim, and hikes that offer views of the 28,169-foot-high peak are popular. Yuksom is the gateway to treks around Kanchenjunga National Park and the area is best visited from March to May.

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Darjeeling (West Bengal)

stony path with red fence leading to stone houses and red monastery and hills in background

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While sprawling, sea-level Kolkata is far from a hiker's paradise, the mountainous parts of West Bengal, around Darjeeling, are another world. A hike up Tiger Hill to the Mount Kanchenjunga lookout is an easy day trip from Darjeeling. For a multi-day trek, try the four-to-five-day trek to Sandakphu at the summit of the Singalila Ridge, which traverses the Sikkim-Nepal border. This trek is moderately difficult and the mountain views across India and Nepal are truly lovely.

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thick vines and tree root bridges hanging over rocks

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The northeastern state of Meghalaya is one of the wettest places in the world, meaning that it has a lush, damp, and atmospheric jungle environment to hike in. But the highlight must be the incredible living root bridges you can find here. These functional bridges were made by the local Khasi tribe and are much more practical in the wet climate than wooden bridges, which would rot. The most famous is the 150-year-old, double-decker bridge near Cherrapunji, but it's a long and arduous hike to get there, with many steps. Other root bridges can be seen on other hikes around Meghalaya.

The David Scott Trail is another trek you can enjoy in the state, passing through the Khasi Hills. It's named after a British official who attempted to establish a trade route to Bangladesh.

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Mount Abu and Aravalli Hills (Rajasthan)

Mount Abu hill station in India with misty mountains in the background
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The western state of Rajasthan is beloved for its deserts, palaces, and forts, but the Mount Abu area—in the Aravalli mountain range—is a surprising hiking destination in this predominantly desert state. At 4,000 feet high, Mount Abu is the highest mountain in the Aravallis and the only British hill station in Rajasthan (other British hill stations in India include Shimla and Mussoorie).

The Mount Abu Wildlife Sanctuary, with its valleys and forests, is a great place to hike. There are trails of varying lengths and levels of difficulty, including multi-day hikes. Rock climbing, abseiling, and caving can also be enjoyed in this sanctuary.

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Lonavala (Maharashtra)

trees, grass, and green cliffs among mist

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The main reason a hiker would want to visit Lonavala, southeast of Mumbai in Maharashtra, is to do the Rajamachi Hike. Or, rather, do a Rajamachi hike, as there are various trails that lead to the two strongholds of the Rajamachi Fort, Shrivardhan and Manaranjan. Waterfalls and caves can also be seen on the hike, and you can camp en route when the weather is dry (during winter and summer). The waterfalls are most spectacular during the monsoon season, though.

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Wayanad (Kerala)

misty sky covering mountains with lake and grassy bank in the foreground and fenced footpath

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Lowland Kerala is all about the sleepy backwaters, but if you head inland you'll find the Western Ghats mountains on the border with Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. These mountains are believed to be older than the Himalayas (although they're much smaller these days) and are valued for their immense biodiversity. The Wayanad region of Kerala is a handy place to explore these mountains and the wildlife-filled forests, as well as picturesque tea fields. The highest mountain in the area, Chembra Peak (6,900 feet tall), can be climbed in a day. The town of Munnar is a good base for day hikes and for organizing longer treks.

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Kodagu/Coorg (Karnataka)

Irupu Falls, Coorg, Karnataka, India
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Kodagu (usually Anglicized as Coorg), in the state of Karnataka, is home to some of the highest mountains in South India and is, therefore, a hub for hikers in this part of Ithe country. One of the most popular short hikes is from Kakkabe to Thadiyandamol, Karnataka's highest peak at 5,735 feet high. There are also some beautiful waterfalls to check out, especially on the challenging hike through the jungle from Virajpet to Irupu Falls. Many of the hikes around Coorg can be done in a day, which is handy if you want to retreat to a gorgeous resort after an active day.

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Ooty (Tamil Nadu)

men walking along path through tea fields with blue sky and trees

Elen Turner

Ooty's Tamil name is Udhagamandalam or the Anglicized Ootacamund, but most people still call it Ooty. This town in the hills of western Tamil Nadu, near the border with Kerala, was established by the British in the 19th century as the cooler summer headquarters of the government in Chennai. Ooty is located in the Nilgiri Hills of the Western Ghats, a name that literally means Blue Hills. Like nearby Wayanad and Coorg, Ooty offers the opportunity to hike amid lovely tea fields. Trails pass through small local villages, including those inhabited by the ethnic Toda people, who have their own distinct forms of architecture and a different culture from mainstream Tamil society. Ooty is around a three hours drive from Mysore, making it a handy weekend hiking getaway if you're staying in the city.